Archaeology of Freedom

It is interesting to find a discussion of David Graeber in the Examiner of all places.

By Geoff Shullenberger Washington Examiner

In his 2011 book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the anthropologist David Graeber marshaled historical, ethnographic, and archaeological evidence in an effort to dismantle some of the basic assumptions of modern economics. The capitalist market economy, he argued, was neither natural nor inevitable. In the course of history, human societies had found other, often more equitable ways to exchange goods and share prosperity, and might do so again. This argument found a receptive audience in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which had shaken the foundations of the global economic order and unleashed a broad backlash.

The occupation of Zuccotti Park began just a few months after Debt appeared. Graeber, a committed anarchist, was involved with Occupy Wall Street from the beginning and bequeathed the movement its framing of wealth distribution as the 1% ruling the 99%. The connection between his scholarship and his activism was his conviction that a world of increasing inequality, one in which money and power are inextricable, is not the only possible one.

Graeber died suddenly at age 59 in 2020, but not before completing the manuscript of The Dawn of Everything, a new and even more ambitious tome than Debt, co-written with the archaeologist David Wengrow. Just as Debt took on the myths surrounding the economy, the new book endeavors to debunk certain underlying assumptions about the basis of our political system. Graeber and Wengrow’s key target is the mythical belief in humanity’s inexorable historical evolution away from small-scale, egalitarian subsistence societies and toward more complex agricultural and industrial ones. This process, the story goes, delivered the benefits of civilization but necessitated the emergence of hierarchy and inequality.


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